John Quincy Adams.

Writings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) online

. (page 33 of 42)
Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 33 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

were desirous that it might be confined exclusively to them
and their enemy , and that no other power might be Involved
in it. That It was particularly and earnestly their wish to
propose and maintain in their fullest extent their commer-
cial and friendly relations with Russia. That the war on
which the Emperor Is now engaged against France, although
it could not be known by the President to have been actually
commenced at the time when your dispatch was written,
was, however, contemplated as more than probable, and the
necessity which obliged the Emperor to take a part In It
was mentioned to me as a cause of regret to the American
government. But it was hoped It would not In the slightest
degree affect the friendly dispositions between Russia and
the United States. That I was Informed by you that the
principal subjects of discussion which had long been sub-
sisting between us and France remained unsettled; that there
was no immediate prospect that there would be a satisfactory


settlement of them; but that whatever the event in this
respect might be, it was not the intention of the govern-
ment of the United States to enter into any more intimate
connections with France. This disposition I added was ex-
pressed in terms as strong and clear as I thought language
could afford. It was even observed that the government of
the United States did not anticipate any event whatever
that could produce that effect, and I was the more happy
to find myself authorized by my government to avow this
intention, as different representations of their views had been
widely circulated as well in Europe as in America.

The Count received this communication with assurances
of his own high satisfaction at its purport, and of his persua-
sion that it could prove equally satisfactory to the Emperor,
before whom he should lay it without delay. He said that
with regard to the friendly and commercial relations with
the United States it was the Emperor's fixed determination
to maintain them so Jar as depended upon him in their fullest
extent. Even if he should enter into engagements more intimate
than he was at present ificlined to co?itract with any power
whatsoever^ he would assent to nothing which could interrupt
or iiripair his relations of friendship with the United States;
and it was the wish that they not might not be liable to the
interruption which they would be expected to suffer by the
English, that had been his principal Inducement to offer
his mediation to effect a reconcilement. He asked me if I
had any objection to his communicating to the British
government itself that part of my information to him which
related to France? I said that on the contrary, as the
British government had in the course of our discussions with
them frequently intimated the belief that the American
government was partial to France, and even actuated by
French influence, I supposed that the knowledge of this


frank and explicit statement, with a due consideration of
the time and occasion upon which it was made, must have a
tendency to remove the prejudice of the British cabinet, and
I would hope produce on their part a disposition more in-
clining to conciliation.

Yesterday the Count sent me a note requesting me to call
upon him again, which I accordingly did. He showed me the
draught of a despatch to Count Lieven, the Russian am-
bassador in England, which he had prepared to lay before
the Emperor for his approbation, and which related the sub-
stance of my conversation with him, particularly in regard
to the intentions of the American government with reference
to France, instructing Count Lieven to make it known to
Lord Castlereagh, and to use it for the purpose of convincing
the British government of their error in suspecting that of
the United States of any subserviency to France; in the
expectation that it would promote in the British ministry
the disposition to peace with the United States which he
(Count Lieven) knew his Imperial Majesty had much at
heart, believing it equally for the interest of both powers and
also for that of his own empire. The Chancellor said that as
this dispatch would refer to what I had verbally stated to
him in our preceding conversation, he wished before sub-
mitting it to the Emperor that I should peruse it, to satisfy
himself that he had correctly represented the purport of
my communication to him, and he desired me, if I should
find any inaccuracy or variance from what I had said to
him, to point it out to him that he might make the dispatch
perfectly correspond with what I had said. I did accordingly
notice several particulars in which the exact purport of what
I had said might be expressed with more precision. He im-
mediately struck out the passages which I noticed in this
manner from the draught, and altered them to an exact con-


formlty with the ideas I had intended to convey. The
changes were inconsiderable, and were no otherwise material
than as I was desirous of the utmost accuracy in the relation
of what I had said under the authority of your dispatch.

Although this communication of the settled determination
of the American government, not to contract any more inti-
mate engagements with France, will thus be made to the
British ministry with my full consent, the Chancellor's
dispatch does not say that he was authorized by me to make
it. It merely relates the substance of that part of my con-
versation with him, and directs Count Lieven to use it with
a view to promote the purpose of pacification. The Chancel-
lor understands that my consent was merely my own act
without authority from you, and my motive in giving it
was the same with that of his instruction to Count Lieven,
because I believed its tendency would be to promote the
spirit of pacification in the British cabinet. I told the Chan-
cellor that I was aware that its effect might be different.
That the very certainty that we should not seek or even ac-
cept a community of cause with their most dreaded enemy
might make them more indifferent to a peace with us. But
in calculating the operation of a generous purpose even upon
the mind of an inveterate enemy, I feel an irresistible impulse
to the conclusion that it will be generous like itself.

I asked the Chancellor whether he had received an answer
from England upon the proposal of the Emperor's mediation.
He said that without accepting or rejecting it they had in-
timated the belief that it would not be acceptable in America.
He added that they rested their expectations of peace with
America upon the result of the American election. I am
with great respect, etc.



No. 103. [James Monroe]

St. Petersburg, 16 December, 1812.

• ••••••

An Imperial manifesto has been published within these few
days commanding a new levy of eight men upon every five
hundred. It will raise nearly three hundred thousand. Part
of them are already in the field as deductions will be allowed
In the governments where one man in ten was actually
furnished the last summer. Probably the new levy will not
much more than fill up the ranks of the regular army thinned
by the events of the war. The expense of human life In the
memorable campaign not yet closed cannot be estimated at
much short of half a million of souls; the numbers fallen
on both sides are nearly equal. But It has changed the face
of the world. Russia has henceforth nothing to fear from
France. She must herself henceforth be the predominating
power on the continent of Europe. The manifesto as I am
Informed disclaims all Intention on the part of the Emperor
of enlarging his own dominions by conquest, but declares
that the object of this new armament is to accomplish a
general peace upon principles of universal justice. A glory
so rare and so truly exalted is worthy of the personal virtues
of the Emperor Alexander and of the enlightened counsels
which yet surround him. It was universally expected pre-
vious to the commencement of the war that It would be the
signal at least for the retirement of the Chancellor. His
character which has been much misunderstood and mis-
represented by the partisans of English politics, appears


to have been more justly appreciated by his master. He
still retains his office and apparently with favor unimpaired.
In the moderation so honorably announced in the manifesto
I am happy to see a pledge that the Emperor's sentiments
in the hour of victory are still congenial to those which I
know have been those of Count RomanzofF before this event-
ful struggle commenced. The English influence will con-
tinue to be as active as possible against him. In the last
conversation I had with him he said to me, "I am happy to
find that the English government do justice to the senti-
ments of the Emperor. More justice indeed than to those
of his Chancellor." And as I know moderation will be the
principle of the Count's political system, the lures of ambi-
tion and aggrandizement will be employed by the British
and their partisans to stagger his credit and to press upon
the Emperor counsels more suitable to their views. It is
doubtless their purpose to make Russia subservient to their
own policy. There is a steadiness in the Emperor's character
which I trust they will find inaccessible to all their endeavors
to shake it. So long as Count Romanzoflf remains the first
depositary of Imperial confidence their disappointment may
be considered certain. I am with high respect, etc.


St. Petersburg, 31 December, 1812.
As another year is closing upon time and joining "the
years beyond the flood," I cannot employ its last moments
more satisfactorily to myself, or more consistently with the
duties at all times incumbent upon me, than in renewing to
my dear and honored parents the testimonies of my grati-
tude, duty and affection; in repeating the assurance of my


ardent desire to return to them, to my long absent children
and to my country; and in offering to heaven the fervent
prayer that my father and you may yet for many many
succeeding years continue to be blessings upon earth to
each other and to us, and to enjoy all the other blessings
that a merciful providence has allotted to the condition of

A Mr. Andrew ^ of Salem left this place about three weeks
since on his return to America. By him I wrote to you and
my father, to my brother, and a short letter to my two sons
at Atkinson. Since then I have not heard from you, nor
from the United States at all. But an English gazette ex-
traordinary has informed me of the surrender number two —
Brigadier General Wadsworth and nine hundred men to
Major General Roger Hale Sheaffe.^ If we go on at this
rate, it is to be hoped that there will be prisoners enough in
Upper Canada to take it without needing any fire-arms.
I perceive the Indians have the greatest share in the exploits
of the British forces against us. Major General Brock was
made a Knight of the Bath for taking General Hull, pretty
much as Falstaff took Sir John Colevile of the Dale, who
"gave himself away gratis." As General Brock will have no
occasion for his "blushing ribband" when it arrives in Amer-
ica, the best use that could be made of it would be to give it
to Norton who seems quite as much entitled to it on the
score of merit and service as the conqueror of Detroit him-

As this propensity to surrender appears to be an infectious
distemper among our troops, I am in daily expectation of
hearing the third instance of it, which I hope will be the

* John Andrew, who was the bearer of despatches for the government of the
United States.

^ At Queenstown, October 13.


last for some time. As I am willing to believe that we shall
learn something by experience, I flatter myself that among
the acquisitions which our warriors will make they will
reckon that of receiving surrenders in return. If not, the
best thing we can do will be to turn unanimously disciples
of George Fox and William Penn, and be conscientiously
scrupulous against bearing arms.

If indeed the practice of surrendering were about to be-
come a military fashion, as from the numerous examples of
it which within the last two months I have almost had under
my eyes would seem probable, there might be reason to
hope that war itself would lose some of its favor as the only
occupation and amusement of mankind. In my last letter
I gave you a sketch of the situation at that time of Napoleon
the Great. There is no account yet that he has personally
surrendered himself, but he has only saved himself by the
swiftness of his flight, which on one occasion at least he was
obliged to pursue in disguise. Of the immense host with
which six months since he invaded Russia, nine-tenths at
least are prisoners or food for worms. They have been sur-
rendering by ten thousands at a time, and at this moment
there are at least one hundred and fifty thousand of them
in the power of the Emperor Alexander. From Moscow to
Prussia, eight hundred miles of road have been strewed with
his artillery, baggage wagons, ammunition chests, dead and
dying men, whom he has been forced to abandon to their
fate — pursued all the time by three large regular armies of a
most embittered and exasperated enemy, and by an almost
numberless militia of peasants, stung by the destruction of
their harvests and cottages which he had carried before him,
and spurred to revenge at once themselves, their country,
and their religion. To complete his disasters the season it-
self during the greatest part of his retreat has been unusually


rigorous, even for this northern climate; so that it has be-
come a sort of by-word among the common people here that
the two Russian generals who have conquered Napoleon
and all his Marshals are General Famine and General Frost.
There may be, and probably is, some exaggeration in the
accounts which have been received and ofhclally published
here of the late events; but where the realities are so certain
and so momentous the temptation to exaggerate and mis-
represent almost vanishes. In all human probability the
career of Napoleon's conquests Is at an end. France can no
longer give the law to the continent of Europe. How he will
make up his account with Germany, the victim of his former
successful rashness, and with France, who rewarded it with
an Imperial crown. Is now to be seen. The transition from
the condition of France In June to her present state is much
greater than would be from the present to her defensive
campaign against the Duke of Brunswick In 1792. A new
era Is dawning upon Europe. The possibility of a more pro-
pitious prospect Is discernible; but to the greatest disposer
of events only Is It known whether this new revolution is to
be an opening for some alleviation to human misery, or
whether It is to be only a variation of calamity.

It is not without some satisfaction that I have had the
opportunity of being so near a witness to the great and deci-
sive events of the year now ending. It has been full of moral
and political Instruction. To the Russian armies and gen-
erals It has also been a great military school, so great indeed
as not altogether to leave reflection unconcerned what
future uses may be made of what they have learnt. But
as military instruction is of little use to me, I have only
had In this respect the opportunity to observe the general
features of the campaign. Its results have presented noth-
ing new. The Fabian system, which succeeded In our rev-


olutionary war, which Lord WelHngton has with equal suc-
cess adopted in Spain and Portugal, and which even in this
country had triumphed a century before over Charles the
Twelfth of Sweden, has again been signally triumphant over
the Hero of the present age; but his errors have been so
gross and flagrant, that their consequences so fatal to him-
self can teach nothing to the military student but what had
been taught a thousand times before. It is not the present
disasters; it is the continuance of his former successes which
may hereafter excite the astonishment of posterity.

The last result upon my mind in pondering over these
occurrences is that it clings more fondly than ever to the
principles of peace. There has been something so fascinat-
ing and so dazzling in the fortunes of this military adventurer
and his followers, that It has kindled into tenfold fierceness
all the flames of individual ambition throughout Europe.
It has made millions of hearts pant for war which in ordinary
times would have beaten only pulsations of tranquillity. War
had become the only career of glory. It will cool some of
this inflammation to see the Corslcan Alexander shrinking
into his natural dimensions, flying for his life like the most
abject of cowards, and meeting, what he can henceforth
scarcely fail to meet, a reverse of destiny as great and almost
as wonderful as his elevation. Bonaparte as well as General
Hull and his conqueror Brock may all exemplify.

On what foundation stands the warrior'' s pride!

I have already mentioned that the season has been un-
usually rigorous. In the course of this month of December
we have had seventeen days in succession with Fahrenheit's
thermometer almost invariably below o. I now write you
at that temperature, and notwithstanding the stoves and
double windows my fingers can hardly hold the pen. The


sun rises at a quarter past 9 in the morning, and sets a
quarter before 3 in the afternoon; so that we must live al-
most hy candle light. We are all literally and really sick of
the climate. It is certainly contrary to the course of nature
for men of the south to invade the regions of the north.
Napoleon should have thought of that. So should the visi-
tors of Upper and Lower Canada. The Normans to be
sure — ^but they were exceptions to all general rules.

Again and again, my beloved mother, may the blessing of
God rest upon you! with this sentiment I close the old and
welcome the approaching year!


St. Petersburg, 12 January, 1813.

In one of your last letters you observed to me that I was
wasting my years here forgotten by my countrymen, though
not forgetting them. I trust I never shall forget them wher-
ever the providence of God may direct my wandering or
cast a portion of my lot. But whether it would be any ad-
vantage either to them or to myself that I should be re-
membered by them, is known only to the all wise disposer.
The only service that in the present circumstances of the
world I could have a possible opportunity of rendering them
would be to contribute a fervent though feeble effort to
restore to them the blessings of peace. To them alone it
belongs to determine whether the opportunity shall be al-
lowed me, and if they deem it expedient, this will be the place
where it may be indulged. As the war was commenced by a
sort of fatality when the only indispensable cause for it was
actually removed, I would still hope that it may be termi-


nated at an early period. It has been hitherto conducted
on our part In a manner which I wish It were in my power
and in that of the whole world to forget, but which will be
too long and too eflfectually remembered.

Mr. Canning has become the representative for the city
of Liverpool in the British House of Commons. Liverpool
has been for nearly twenty years the most flourishing city
in the British Island, and Its prosperity has been almost
entirely owing to the commerce with America. This fact
Is worth a volume of commentary to show the disposition of
the people of England towards America. If there was a spot
in the British dominions where a sentiment of regret for
America might have been supposed to have some Influence
It was Liverpool, and Liverpool Is the place where the most
rancorous, malicious and vindictive enemy of America
carries a triumphant and insulting election. His first speech
In his new capacity was to reproach the ministers that after
six months of war they had not destroyed the seaports of
the United States. So you see the same spirit which pre-
vailed when you prophesied to Lord Shelburne the second
war still blooms In all Its luxuriance. Canning boasted at
the hustings that he had been twice offered the office of
Secretary of State within six months, and It appears still
highly probable that he will soon have It. The present
ministers appear to be not quite so eager as he Is to demolish
the American seaports. I suppose they prefer operating in
the style of Captain Henry's mission. I consider Canning's
system as by so much the least formidable of the two; but
if he comes In, the chance or the possibility of peace will be
more precarious and remote than I think It Is at present.
Canning's war would do us just mischief enough to show the
savage temper with which It would be pursued. It would be
utterly Impotent to produce any other effect than increased

426 . THE WRITINGS OF [1813

exasperation and bitterness. It would very soon put down
the British party among us, which is chiefly concentrated in
those very seaports that Canning longs to see burnt.

The present British ministers rely upon the Issue of our
presidential election for peace. They have been told, and
they believe, that if Mr. Clinton is the new President there
is to be no question between the United States and them for
discussion. Peace is to be asked for on such conditions as
they shall choose to dictate, and the maritime rights of men-
stealing and so forth are to be sanctioned forever. Anxiously
as I sigh for peace I need not say to you that it is not for such
a peace as that.

A career of good fortune rather than of success has fol-
lowed the present British ministry since they were ultimately
fixed in power, which will prolong their duration and ex-
aggerate all their pretensions. The folly and disasters of the
French Emperor will contribute to the same end. His
Russian campaign is now terminated, and his defeat has been
as signal and calamitous as any of his former successes had
been dazzling. Whether his own government can stand
the shock of such a tremendous campaign Is at least prob-
lematical; but he has In six months crippled the power of
France beyond all chance of restoration. Poland and Prussia
he has already lost, and it is scarcely possible that the rest
of Germany should not slip from his grasp and turn against
him. Russia Is the arbitress of Europe, and though she
purchased the prerogative at an immense expense of blood
and treasure, she has obtained it cheaper than her most
sanguine friends could have expected. She has now in her
turn become the invader, and probably the year now com-
mencing will witness dangers on the European continent as
great as those which have distinguished the last. I am etc.



St. Petersburg, 31 January, 1813.

The English government have declared a blockade at
Chesapeake Bay and Delaware river. New York and the
coast of New England they leave open. They follow Cap-
tain Henry's advice, just as at the beginning of our revolu-
tionary war they disfranchised Boston in favor of Salem.
The spirit of 1775 seems to be extinct in New England; but
I hope the profligacy of British policy will not be more
successful now than it was then.

The war between us and them Is now reduced to one point
— Impressment — a cause for which we should not have com-
menced a war, but without an arrangement of which our
government now say they cannot make peace. If ever there
was a just cause for war in the sight of Almighty God, this
cause Is on our side just. The essence of this cause Is on the
British side oppression, on our side personal liberty. We are
fighting for the sailor's cause. The English cause is the press-
gang. It seems to me that In the very nature of this cause
we ought to find some resources for maintaining It by opera-
tions upon the mind of our own seamen and upon those of
the adversaries. It is sometimes customary for the com-
manders of ships to address their crews on going into action,
and to inspirit them by motives drawn from the cause they
are called to support. In this war when our ships go into
action their commanders have the best possible materials for
cheering their men to extraordinary exertions of duty.
How the English admirals and captains will acquit them-

Online LibraryJohn Quincy AdamsWritings of John Quincy Adams (Volume 9) → online text (page 33 of 42)